Cybersecurity Programs in Washington
| CyberDegrees.org Staff
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Amazon. Microsoft. T-Mobile. Some of the biggest employers in cyber security call the Seattle area home. The shortest route to a career with any of them is by pursuing a Washington state degree. We’ll show you who has them (you can skip to the list now if you prefer), run down the scholarships to apply for, mention notable networking opportunities and, finally, tell you about the jobs.
Studying Cybersecurity in Washington
A handful of Washington schools are quite active on the cyber security scene, with UW leading the way. Here are a few of the more notable recent happenings on campus:
- An HP-sponsored survey in 2014 named University of Washington as the 12th best school in the country for cyber security. That’s due in part to the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC) housed at UW Bothell. CIAC’s reach extends beyond Bothell, where it helps run five cyber research labs, to the Seattle campus, where an additional three reside. All of those labs are humming with research activity, especially after University of Washington won a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense in 2016 to develop approaches that could defend against “advanced persistent threats.”
- Whatcom Community College heads CyberWatch West, a network of more than 100 schools west of the Mississippi that work together to improve curricula, foster faculty development and cultivate industry partnerships. Closer to home, the Bellingham school runs two weeklong “cyber camps” for high school upperclassmen. Students who complete the camp earn three college credits toward a degree from the Whatcom Computer Information Systems department.
- Columbia Basin College is one of three 2-year institutions in the state designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security (Whatcom and Highline Community College are the others). The junior college proved it deserved the honor by taking seventh place at the 2016 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
- In 2016 Western Washington University opened up its BS in Computer and Information Systems Security degree to students on its extended education campus at Poulsbo. This benefits graduates of the associate-level cyber security program at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, which has a seamless transfer agreement with WWU.
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Online Cybersecurity Programs in Washington
A slew of Washington schools place cyber security programs online from the bachelor’s level onward. The most active public university in the field is Central Washington University, while University of Washington jumps in at the certificate level. Those inclined toward a private education should look to City University of Seattle or WGU Washington (with the latter approved to offer state grants to students, just like a state college would). We delve into each program below:
Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
Three universities get in the game at the baccalaureate level, promoting four quite different degree programs. The “purest” degree in the field is the BS in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance from City University of Seattle. It takes in students looking for corporate jobs, and enrollees will get plenty of exposure to three concepts: IT governance, risk management and compliance. City University students can also choose the BS in Criminal Justice and pursue the Cyber Forensics Investigation emphasis. Graduates should be qualified to go into the public or private sector, but would likely be more focused on dealing with security breaches after the fact than preventing them.
Elsewhere, Central Washington University’s BS in Information Technology and Administrative Management (ITAM) with a specialization in Cybersecurity is a completion program. Therefore, it requires incoming students to hold a two-year associate transfer degree or a bachelor’s degree. The program itself will hit you with a combination of soft skills classes in management and hard skills courses to boost your technical prowess. An alternative is WGU Washington’s BS in Information Technology-Security. It’s aimed at folks already working in the field as professionals or even managers. The coursework, built to fit around a traditional 9-5 job, will qualify you to sit for security certifications.
Online Master’s Degrees in Cybersecurity
All the same players are at work at the graduate level. The online MS in Information Security at City University of Seattle aims to produce upper-level managers. Students can specialize in one of four areas: cyber security environment, information security audit, breaking and securing code, or CPA exam review.
Central Washington University’s one-year MS in Information Technology and Administrative Management with/ a specialization in Cybersecurity Management is akin to the school’s BS-ITAM degree but with a heavier dollop of coursework in leadership, ethics, budgeting and other managerial issues.
The MS in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance at WGU Washington will scratch the itch of professionals who want more of everything, such as advanced theories of risk management, ethical hacking techniques and deep dives into cyber law.
Online Certificate Programs in Cybersecurity
Central Washington University’s ITAM curriculum can also be distilled into certificate form. The undergraduate Certificate in Cybersecurity essentially combines a couple of core courses from the ITAM curriculum with four classes from the specialization.
To the west, University of Washington promotes a trio of intriguing programs. The first is the three-course Certificate in Ethical Hacking for programmers with experience in networking and operating system administration. The second is the Certificate in Information Security & Risk Management. Entrants are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in the field and already know their stuff with regard to data security and risk management. IT pros working in the broader IT field who want to become proficient in those two areas should look to program #3, the Certificate in Information Systems Security.
Cybersecurity Scholarships in Washington
Washington’s public colleges and universities advertise a range of scholarships for STEM students in general and cyber security majors in particular. Here are a few you may run across in your degree search:
Central Washington University
- Boeing ITAM Scholarship: Students majoring in an Information Technology and Administrative Management program may qualify for a $1,000 award from Boeing. The aerospace company, which prefers to hand out money to cyber security students, mandates that recipients hold a 3.2 GPA and demonstrate financial need.
- Eugene Kosy Scholarship: ITAM majors with a 3.0 and upperclassman standing may apply for the Kosy Scholarship, which prioritizes students with leadership experience.
Edmonds Community College
- American Association of University Women Scholarship: $1,000 goes to a returning female student with a 3.0 who is pursuing a STEM degree on her way to a bachelor’s degree.
- STEM Scholarship: This generic scholarships provides one $1,200 per year to a STEM student.
Lake Washington Institute of Technology
- Future Tech Stars Scholarship: Computer Security and Networking is one of just four programs targeted by the Future Tech Stars program. The school gives out five or more full scholarships to nontraditional students with limited financial means. Take 12 credits and maintain a 2.5 GPA to qualify.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: Students in the Master of Science in Information Management program can win a $25,000 stipend to go along with a stunning array of financial benefits, including free tuition. The catch is pretty easy to swallow: You'll take a job after graduation working at a federal agency for a few years.
Whatcom Community College
- SEECRS Scholarships: These awards are worth more than the $4,500 to $6,700 students receive. Students in the SEECRS program — it stands for STEM Excellence through Engagement in Collaboration, Research, and Scholarship — also benefit from mentoring and paid summer research gigs. A 3.0 GPA and financial need will get you considered.
Cyber Security Events in Washington
Cyber Security Meetups & Communities in Washington
To transition from a degree program in Washington to a cyber security career there, start by networking. Plenty of professional societies welcome student members, including the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), which has chapters in Puget Sound, Tacoma and Spokane. Similarly, ISACA, formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, maintains two chapters: a Mount Rainier chapter to serve Olympia-area professionals and a Puget Sound chapter for Seattleites. Other relevant groups include the Seattle chapter of the Cloud Security Alliance.
However, you don’t have to join a membership organization to expand your network or boost your skills. We’ve highlighted a few groups around the state you can link up with:
- DC206: Once a month, security hobbyists and professionals as well as interested hackers descend on Black Lodge Research in Redmond to hear presentations on topics such as social engineering and threat modeling.
- DC509: Like their Puget Sound colleagues in DC206, the InfoSec enthusiasts in Spokane’s DC509 unite on a regular basis to share tricks of the trade. It’s a newer group than DC206, but the same general ethos applies: Everyone is welcome and it’s meant to be fun!
- Information & Cybersecurity Issues in Healthcare Settings Meetup: The name is a mouthful, but at least you know what these Seattleites are interested in. The group, founded in early 2017, aims to meet once a month for presentations.
- SEASec East: Security professionals meet the first Tuesday of each month for food at various Bellevue and Redmond restaurants. It’s a chance to catch up and talk about InfoSec and enjoy whatever tasty grub they’re having that month.
- Seattle 2600: Like all 2600 groups, the ethical hackers in Seattle 2600 meet every first Friday, in this case at Cafe Allegro, where they ply themselves with coffee before chatting about tech. The group is totally public and open to beginners.
- Seattle Women in Cyber Security and Info Security (SWiCSIS): SWiCSIS came together in late 2016 and has maintained a monthly meeting schedule to network and hear expert speakers. Presentations often deal with topics unique to female tech professionals.
- Spokane 2600: The same 2600 rules apply to this Spokane gathering: First Friday at a coffee shop and everyone is welcome.
Cybersecurity Conferences & Workshops in Washington
Membership in a cyber security group can help you fill out a calendar with events. For instance, in 2017 (ISC)2, also known as the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, put on a one-day training for members and nonmembers alike called SecureSeattle. Below are some conferences and workshops you can put on your calendar today:
- BSides Seattle: Part of a global movement to nurture local cyber security scenes, BSides Seattle is a one-day event for anyone in the area who wants to engage in an evolving conversation about the sector. Like any conference, it focuses on presentations, but it’s decidedly more TedX than college lecture.
- Seattle Cyber Security Summit: Launched in 2017, the Seattle Cyber Security Summit is targeted at corporate honchos in the region. The summit links them to InfoSec experts for a day of conversations about all the threats to their businesses.
- SecureWorld Seattle: This two-day November expo for security pros combines trainings, panel discussions and exhibits. Pay a little to get access to open sessions. Pay more for access to panel discussions and/or trainings.
- Washington Digital Government Summit: The two-day summit in the state’s capital, Olympia, is designed to get government employees up to speed on tech issues through breakout sessions on cyber security and other tech topics.
Cybersecurity Jobs in Washington
About 80 percent of cyber security jobs in Washington — or, at least, job postings — are based in the Seattle metropolitan area, according to 2015 research by Burning Glass Technologies. But despite Seattle’s strong tech reputation — bolstered by the presence of companies like Microsoft, Amazon and T-Mobile — the city remains just outside the top 10 for cyber security jobs. And Washington as a whole is outside the top 15 states.
But you’re not looking to take multiple jobs, right? What you want is one great job — and Washington state has plenty of great jobs in cyber security. Telecommunications giant T-Mobile keeps Bellevue as its U.S. headquarters and is constantly stalking job sites to score new security talent, while Amazon needs security gurus to ensure its payment systems and fulfillment infrastructure aren’t compromised. Microsoft is the world’s largest software company and requires a constant influx of new blood to create and test products. And although it’s not based in Washington, Boeing looms large in the state and partners with Microsoft on projects. Indeed ranked it #10 on its 2017 list of U.S companies employing cyber security professionals.
Plenty of firms outside the Fortune 500 are worth applying to as well. Microsoft joined six other smaller Seattle-area companies to make the 2017 Cybersecurity 500, an index of the “hottest and most innovative companies in the field.” The others were F5, DomainTools, WatchGuard, wolfSSL, Auth0 and Tempered Networks.
Cybersecurity Salaries in Washington
Of course, one element that makes a job “great” is the salary. And Seattle offers the second-best wages in the country for information security specialists after adjusting for cost of living, according to Indeed.com, trailing only Minneapolis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tallies the number of information security analysts, finds something similar: Washingtonians with that title make $96,000 a year on average compared to a national rate of $90,000. Seattleites make slightly more.
Another solid indicator of earning potential is return on investment (ROI). University of Washington is nestled near the top of the list nationally for ROI when it comes to computer science degrees. Even out-of-state students without a dime of financial aid stand to quickly make back their investment. Western Washington University students also fare well, with in-state enrollees notching an ROI of $865,000 over their first 20 years at work.
All Cybersecurity Programs in Washington
Below are all the matching programs we found in our directory, from 12 Washington schools.
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